Field Notes: Language & TIME

The Name of the Magazine: TIME is one of the most recognizable magazines in the industry, as it has been for decades. The name is straight forward and simple. It conveys that the magazine covers current, or TIMEly, issues. Maybe it could be more specific, or a little more detailed with a tagline, but with its reputation, TIME is a staple in the magazine industry anyway, and even non-readers understand its purpose.


Headlines: Most TIME headlines are short, consisting of only a few words. Sometimes, they are literal and more “newsy”, while other times, they can be a little more narrative or story-like. Some recent headlines include:

“Small countries lead big on climate change.”

“Venezuela’s Crossroads”

“The Flying Midwives” (although, the headline serves as a longer summary, reading, “In the world’s worst country to give birth, the flying midwives are saving the lives of moms and babies.” The headline is designed to emphasize “The Flying Midwives.”

“A literary king conquers fantasy”

Recent headlines from TIME magazine.

Headlines vary between summary and creative. Most in The Brief section are more news, while other sections like reviews, use more creative headlines. Most feature stories have deks, while shorter stories do not. Subheads are also used in longer stories. Initially, most stories are conversational, but narrative at the same time. TIME does an excellent time job of integrating statistics, expert sourcing and current data into every article, which helps to develop the magazine’s tone throughout. TIME is known for its reliable information with crafted story-telling.

Longer stories, like this one, have a headline and dek

The jump page of the article highlights the lede.


Pull Quotes: Pull quotes are used throughout TIME, particularly on the longer feature stories. They are usually more bold than the copy text, and use a different color, like red or blue. TIME uses pull quotes to relay important information to the reader, so it is usually more informational, like data, stats or an explanatory quote.

Typical pull quote from TIME. Most summarize a story, or provide important data or statistics.

Cutlines and Captions: Cutlines and captions in TIME vary a little. Most photos have a cutline, but most do not have a caption.

Common cutlines from TIME. Some use photo credits, but most do not.


Labels: Labels are used throughout TIME, and are very straightforward. Labels like “News,” “Politics” and “World” can be seen on the tops of each page.

Bylines and Credit Lines: Bylines, like most other identifying elements, are kept simple. The writer’s name is presented under the headline or on the jump spread, usually with no position or title. One only exception is the most recent “The Optimists” special issue, where SOME guest writers are identified by name and position or role, while some more notable figures, like Bill Gates, are only identified by name.

Promos and Refers: Promos are fairly straight forward, with important keywords being bolded, an interesting design choice.

Section/Department/Feature Names: Very straightforward, but matches the overall tone of TIME. Section names, like “The Brief” and “The View” are a little more abstract, but each story also has an accompany label like the ones mentioned above.


Overall, TIME is a very straight-forward publication. It tackles current events, most of which are news, (both national and international) politics, health or human interest related. These subjects don’t often lend themselves to cheeky or clever headlines, cutlines or labels, so most of TIME’s structure revolves around a more serious tone. However, some of the writing styles of various authors are a little more narrative than others. Some interesting choices made by TIME include the decision to not include cutlines with photos, and to bolden keywords in the table of contents promos.